International labor mobility is essential to modern labor markets. Employers rely on labor migrants to fill jobs at all skill levels. The matching of employees to occupations are for the most part a negotiation between the immigrant and prospective employers. For licensed occupations, however, national authorities also have a say in the matter, because the qualification requirements are enshrined in law – one needs accreditation to practice these occupations. The issue of occupational regulation is high on the policy agenda in the EU: Labor mobility improves employment at the individual level and secures access to qualified workers for crucial tasks in European countries. To achieve this, employees and employers’ need efficient and high quality recognition of credentials. The aim of RECONNECT is to deliver knowledge of relevance to governments’ aim to improve access to regulated occupations for skilled mobile workers, knowledge to improve re-qualification for foreign workers and labor market inclusion.
RECONNECT has a cross-disciplinary and multi-method design. Through a historical and institutional approach, we analyze the current regulatory framework and ask what were the historical and institutional motivations behind implementation of regulations, and how has these been sharpened against international exchange agreements? Next, we use longitudinal quantitative data to investigate how occupational regulation legislation affect individual career outcomes, such as mobility decisions, and post-migration careers. Third, we circle in on employer experiences, and use survey and interview data to disclose patterns in employer’s hiring preferences, and their experiences with recruitment and training of foreign-skilled workers. Finally, we interview candidates who undergo re-qualification programs in teaching, nursing and engineering to provide longitudinal data about their experiences with the re-qualification process and subsequent labor market entry.
RECONNECT provide new knowledge on the consequences of occupational regulation for labor mobility and immigrants’ opportunity to integrate with their occupation of training.
International agreements on mutual exchange of skill and labor transcend national borders. Occupational regulations, however, maintain them. EUs occupational directive, the framework for harmonization and general recognition of occupational skills attempt to deal with national occupational regulation and the hindrance to free mobility, but it only applies to EU citizens and not skilled labor from other areas of the world. In Norway, 20 pct of the working population and 30 pct of those with tertiary education work in a regulated occupation. Hence, regulation is a significant barrier to occupational integration. Yet, research on occupational regulation and labor mobility are scarce, as well as research on the post-migration careers. The information that we do have, suggest that immigrants who access the regulated occupations have high employment levels and wages equivalent to the majority colleagues. We lack knowledge on why this is the case, and we lack knowledge on the consequences for those who fail to integrate with their previous occupation.
The overarching research aim is to generate new knowledge on the consequences of occupational regulation at the individual, organizational and societal level. The RECONNECT project has a cross-disciplinary and multi-method design that study: (a) the historical and institutional motivations behind implementation of regulations and how these have been sharpened against international exchange agreements; (b) employers’ experiences with the benefits and limitations of regulations for access to labor, training and quality of service; (c) individual career trajectories of mobile labor through use of the harmonized European Labor Force Surveys and Norwegian register data, and finally (d) individual experiences with obligatory re-qualification and training.